Graduate and professional students who are victims of sexual assault will soon have access to a new confidential support group, organized by the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center.
Lyvonne Briggs DIV ’12, who worked with SHARE Director Carole Goldberg to create the group, said she hopes the new initiative will provide a place where graduate and professional school students can comfortably discuss and cope with sexual assault experiences. The new group comes as SHARE works to expand its influence on campus and serve as a primary resource for students facing issues of sexual misconduct.
“To be a graduate and professional school student at [Yale], you’re under so much pressure, and those pressures are exacerbated by any type of internal struggles that may be going on caused by sexual assault,” Briggs said. “If you have a 25-page paper due, and you keep having flashbacks about getting raped two years ago, you just can’t focus.”
Briggs said she hopes the program will begin by March after Goldberg conducts initial interviews with participants — a standard procedure for students seeking SHARE’s services. She added that she expects the group to meet twice per month on different weekdays to accommodate interested students’ schedules.
Briggs said the group will be led by a licensed therapist and provide a sense of community that is often hard to find in the graduate and professional schools. Whereas undergraduates have immediate access to a larger community through the residential college system, she said students at other schools might have trouble finding a similar layer of support.
“I know a lot of times, people can go to a hospital or some type of doctor’s office and feel a little clammed up or uncomfortable, or not as free,” she said. “Our space is different because it’s not going to be quite as ‘clinical.’”
Briggs said she approached Goldberg about the possibility of creating a sexual assault support group late last month, adding that she thought the group would help students recognize that they are not alone in their struggles with overcoming past experiences of sexual assault.
Sean McAvoy DIV ’11, who worked with Briggs to reach out to Goldberg and is an assistant director of admissions and recruitment at the Divinity School, said he and Briggs were surprised SHARE did not already offer a similar support group.
“It was one of those things that we thought should be there,” McAvoy said. “A lot of sexual assault victims feel alone, and they really shouldn’t.”
The University has offered various sexual assault support groups since 2000, Goldberg said, but they were generally formed in response to student requests. She added that she would be open to creating a similar support group for undergraduates if any expressed interest.
Thirteen of the 52 sexual misconduct complaints brought to University officials from July 1 to Dec. 31 last year were filed by graduate and professional school students, according to a recent report released by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler.